Hi Pavlos, Q can you tell us what you do in simple words?
P: I am a physician that treats patients with cancer. And I am also a scientist that runs a research laboratory testing new therapies for cancer.
Q what is cancer?
P: Our bodies are made of tiny building blocks called cells. We have trillions of cells in our bodies. Cancer is a disease that happens when some of our cells stop doing their normal job and instead grow on their own into a lump inside our body called a tumor. These bad cancer cells can then spread to other parts of our bodies and grow more tumors.
Q what causes cancer?
P: Cancer is usually caused by a combination of three things: 1) exposure to toxic substances such as smoking, environmental pollution, or too much sun exposure without protection; 2) Damage in the genes inside our cells before we were born. Genes carry the information that determines how our cells work; 3) Bad luck, also known as “randomness”. There is always some degree of randomness that determines when and if cancer will develop in our bodies. Also, each type of cancer is caused by different exposures and damage to different genes. For example, too much sun exposure can cause cancers that start in our skin but not cancers that start in our kidneys.
Q can kids get it too?
P: Kids are less likely than adults to develop cancer. But they can sometimes develop cancer too. The most common cancer in children is called “leukemia”. Leukemia happens when the cells in our blood grow on their own and spread throughout our bodies.
Q is there anything I can do to lessen chances of getting a cancer or not?
P: While sometimes cancer can happen randomly even if you do everything perfectly, avoid toxic exposure and following medical guidelines for screening and prevention of cancer can significantly reduce the chances of getting a cancer.
Q sounds like cancer is common. Like an epidemic! If someone in my school has cancer, can I get it too? Like Covid?
P: No, the cancer that a person develops in their own bodies cannot infect others.
Q what is the treatment like? When I had an ear infection, I was given a syrup to take for a week. It didn’t taste nice. Do people with cancer get something similar?
P: Yes, cancer can be treated by drugs that are typically stronger than the antibiotics we may give for infections. These cancer drugs are called “chemotherapies” and can initially make you more sick because they harm both the bad cancer cells and our good cells. We give these chemotherapies to patients because they can harm the cancer cells far more than the good cells. Other therapies we use are surgery to cut out the tumors, or high doses of radiation to kill the cancer cells. Another new exciting therapy for cancer is called “immunotherapy”. Immunotherapy helps our immune system recognize cancer cells as bad cells and clear them out of our bodies.
Q what helps us know more about cancer and cure more people with this disease?
P: Research is helping us understand more about how cancer cells work and how best to eradicate them from our bodies. We are able to cure far more people with cancer today than twenty years ago. But there is still a long ways to go until we are able to cure everyone with cancer. Research is ongoing so that we can one day eradicate cancer from everyone. To achieve this we need to learn more about: 1) how we can better prevent cancer from developing in our bodies; 2) how to diagnose cancer earlier when the tumors are smaller and easier to eradicate; 3) how to more efficiently treat cancers that have grown and spread throughout our bodies
Q what is science hoping to do in the next 10 y?
P: We hope to use the latest scientific advances and new technologies like artificial intelligence to help us find better ways to prevent, diagnose early, and treat cancer.
Q what is cancer prevention?
P: Cancer prevention focuses on preventing the good cells in our bodies from turning into cancer cells. By knowing more about how each cancer is caused, we can reduce toxic exposures or damage to the genes and thus significantly reduce the chances that a person develops cancer throughout their life.
Q can I be the one who finds the cure? Is there only one cure for all cancers?
P: Yes, with a lot of studying you can definitely become a researcher that can find cures for cancer. Each cancer is different and there is not a single cure for all of them. Therefore, the more researchers we have working on cures for cancer, the more likely we are to find specific cures for each cancer.
Q what is precision oncology?
P: Oncology is the field of medicine that studies cancer. Because each cancer is unique to the person who has it, we need to become more precise about how we can help each individual patient. The goal of precision oncology is therefore to find specific ways to prevent, diagnose early, and treat the cancer of each individual patient. This needs a lot of research and careful thinking.
Q if I meet anyone with cancer, is there anything I can do to help them?
P: The best way to help a person with cancer is to be supportive. How to be supportive depends on each situation. Sometimes a person with cancer may need emotional encouragement. Other times they may prefer not to talk about their cancer. We are supportive by respecting their wishes.
Q what else can I do to help in anyway?
P: We can also help by making others aware about cancer. For example, it helps for everyone to know that a person who develops cancer cannot infect others with cancer. Another way to help is to support efforts to raise funds for cancer research so that one day all cancers can be cured.
Dr. Msaouel is a clinician and cancer biologist dedicated to translational research for the treatment of kidney cancer. He received his MD and PhD in cellular and molecular physiology from the University of Athens in Greece. He then completed his internal medicine residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine / Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, and also served as Chief Resident for the program. He subsequently served as Chief Fellow at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, while completing his fellowship in medical oncology. His laboratory research and clinical trials focus on developing new therapies for rare and common kidney cancers.
Click here to buy online and download the book “Dare to Dream Big”Ioanna Nixon, Consultant Oncologist, executive Coach, and author.
Prof Ioanna Nixon, Consultant Oncologist, executive Coach, and author.
Prof Ioanna Nixon is a senior oncologist in Glasgow, UK. She specialises in sarcomas and her research focuses on novel cancer therapies, quality of life and clinical innovations. She has led the Scottish Sarcoma Network since 2015 till early 2022and is the Cancer Innovation Lead for the West of Scotland. She is an honorary clinical senior lecturer at Glasgow University and an academic at Strathclyde Business School, researching on health policy and leadership. She is also an executive coach, specialising on resilience, leadership, and wellness.
She is the Founder of WEE LEADERS and The Empower Clinic, aiming to help people live a healthy, long, purposeful life.